Casey Speaks of Improvements in Iraqi Forces
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 26, 2005 Army Gen. George Casey reminded reporters at a press roundtable today just how far Iraqi security forces have come in a relatively short time.
"When Prime Minister (Ayad) Allawi took office on June 28, he had one deployable battalion," said the commander of Multinational Force Iraq. "Today, he has 40 battalions."
What's more, Casey said, the units "are in the fight." An Iraqi division with two brigades is operating in Mosul. Another division with two brigades is working in Fallujah. "You have other Iraqi army forces operating in Samarra and north Babil," he said. "They are in the fight. We calculate that we have about 130,000 Iraqi security forces that are trained and equipped today."
Iraqi security forces are comprised of local police, special police, border police and the Iraqi army.
In the Iraqi military, there are commando units and special forces in the army. Iraq also has a small air force and a small navy. Casey said the forces have a broad range of capabilities, but their abilities vary widely.
"The weak service is the local police," he said. "That's what you saw collapse in Mosul. You saw about 4,000 police walk off the job when threatened."
But, even with the police, there has been progress over the past seven months.
Still, even with all this improvement, the Iraqi security forces are not capable of taking over the counterinsurgency campaign. Casey said Iraqi leaders understand this, but "there is a willingness and desire to ultimately take it over."
The coalition and Iraqi leaders are trying to accelerate the training and equipping process. Right now, coalition forces are leading the counterinsurgency effort with Iraqi forces in support. "What the Iraqis want to do in the next year is reverse that," Casey said. "We think we can do that.
"We're an outside force, and the Iraqis in some parts of the country see us as an occupation," he continued. "We need to get the Iraqis in front."
The coalition is developing plans to place more advisory teams with Iraqi security forces. "There are assistance support teams with Iraqi units now, but they don't have the equipment they need to employ coalition effects -- to get intelligence from us, to get (medical-evacuation support) from us, to get air support and those kinds of things," Casey said.
Coalition forces must also build brigade and division headquarters necessary for the Iraqis to operate independently.
By and large, Casey said, building the Iraqi forces is on track. There are problems with the police, but overall the security forces are improving.
In the long term, more capable Iraqi security forces will have an effect on the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. "As Iraqi forces gain capability, they will take over areas of the country by themselves," Casey said. Conditions on the ground, of course, will dictate the decision, he added.
"We want to leave the Iraqi security forces in a position that they can sustain the success we've had," he said. "It's not the 'get-out-of-Dodge' plan, it's to sustain them over the long run."